SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Scleroderma is a chronic condition that affects the connective tissue.
- The disorder can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much skin and connective tissue is affected.
- Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms, and will vary from person to person.
Many different areas of the body can be affected by scleroderma, and symptoms vary greatly from person to person.
Anyone can develop scleroderma, but it is more common between the ages of 30 and 60, and three times more likely in females. There are estimated to be over 5,000 Australians living with scleroderma.
Scleroderma is not contagious. The condition can be mild, moderate or severe. There is no cure, but it is possible to successfully manage the symptoms.
Types of scleroderma
There are two broad classifications of scleroderma based on the amount of skin and other organs affected. These are:
- localised scleroderma – affects the skin. There are two types of localised scleroderma, morphea or linear. Both have distinctive signs and symptoms. Localised scleroderma can sometimes restrict normal joint movement, due to hardening of the skin over the joint. The cause of localised scleroderma is unknown
- diffuse scleroderma – (also called systemic scleroderma or systemic sclerosis) involves a more widespread hardening of the skin. Internal organs are also affected. Systemic sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the condition arises due to immune system overactivity, whereby the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
Symptoms of scleroderma
The symptoms will vary from person to person and will depend on the type of scleroderma and which internal organs are involved, if any.
Symptoms can include:
- thickening and hardening of the skin
- – a condition which affects the blood flow to the extremities, most often fingers and toes. It is caused by a sudden constriction of the blood vessels
- stiffness and pain in the muscles or joints (or both)
- , , , .
Causes of scleroderma
Diagnosis of scleroderma
Treatment of scleroderma
There is no cure for scleroderma. Treatment aims to ease the symptoms and will be dependent on the person's symptoms. applied to the skin may be prescribed for localised scleroderma. A range of other anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed. Specialised medications are also available for scleroderma-associated disease.
A person with scleroderma should be monitored by a or . Other healthcare providers such as immunologists, and may take part in ongoing treatment.
Management of scleroderma
Managing the disease depends on its severity, but may include:
- medication – to decrease the symptoms of or treat other affected organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, lungs or
- lifestyle changes – avoid exposure to cold temperatures, dress warmly and don't . These measures help manage Raynaud's phenomenon
- gentle, regular – to counteract the effects of joint immobilisation and improve overall health
- management – to help you cope with the demands and challenges of the disease
- aids and equipment – the effects of scleroderma may make some actions difficult, for example, using door handles or getting dressed. Changing your home or work environment and using aids and equipment can help. An can provide advice.